The Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)/drone test site at Griffiss International Airport has received federal approval to fly unmanned aircraft beyond visual line of sight within a portion of the flight corridor being developed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.
An 8-by-4-mile section that has been approved for those flights is between Griffiss airport and the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services State Preparedness Training Center in Whitestown.
This is the first true BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) authority granted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-designated test site, and allows unmanned aircraft testing without the need for ground-based observers, the announcement said.
Overall, a 50-mile UAS corridor is being developed by Oneida County, Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) and the state.
Current FAA drone regulations require operators to keep their drones in line of sight unless they have approval from the FAA. With the BVLOS flight approval, NUAIR and the test site have proven to the FAA that the proper safety measures and technologies are in place to fly unmanned aircraft beyond line of sight safely, according to the announcement.
The designation process took about 14 months. NUAIR and the New York UAS Test Site were able to receive the BVLOS approval by showcasing the amount of high-tech equipment and safety technologies that have been established along with data from over 2,500 UAS test flights they have conducted since operations began in 2015, the announcement said.
The approval “is an incredible milestone for New York State and will ensure that Central New York and the Mohawk Valley regions remain the global hub for Unmanned Aircraft System advancement and integration for generations to come,” said Cuomo.
County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said “as of today in Oneida County, you can fly unmanned aircraft as far as the eye can see — and then a little more. The FAA approval of an 8-mile flight corridor between the New York Test Site at Griffiss International Airport and the State Preparedness Training Center...is a critical development which we believe will attract more research, testing, investment and jobs to the region.”
NUAIR Chief Operations Officer Tony Basile said “with a crawl, walk, run mentality of UAS advancement, having the ability to fly beyond visual line of sight within a limited area moves us into the ‘walk’ category, which will lead us to ‘running’ in a fully operational BVLOS 50-mile UAS corridor in the near future.”